Chasing the Bloom – A Guide to Cherry Blossom Season in Japan

Cherry Blossom Season

Once every year, Japan turns into a magical fairyland. It’s cherry blossom season. You’ll know it is just around the corner when suddenly EVERYTHING is cherry blossom related – foods are available in “Sakura” flavor and even beer cans are decorated with prints of white and pink petals. All throughout Japan, both locals and tourist aim to find the most beautiful “Hanami” spots and you’ll find the parks full of people relaxing underneath canopies of cherry blossoms to welcome spring.

 

Cherry Blossoms Kyoto Couple Kissing

 

When to go?

Well, this is a bit of a tricky one to give an exact answer to. The date of the cherry tree’s full bloom depends on several factors, which is important to keep in mind when planning your trip!

Generally, Hanami season is around springtime, during March and April to be more specific. However, the cherry blossoms can start blooming as early as February in the southern Islands of Japan (e.g. Okinawa), before migrating up north all the way to Hokkaido where they are in full bloom in May. Usually, the blooming period only lasts for about two weeks, so keep an eye on the forecasts! Not only do the trees bloom at different times depending on the place – cold temperatures, rain and wind all can have an effect on the exact blooming times too.

Forecasts are available online all year around, but Japan’s Weather Association releases an official report around February, which I suggest to consult before making fixed plans!

 

Cherry Blossoms on Water

 

Where to go?

Kyoto

Arashiyama – combine a visit to Arashiyama’s famous bamboo forest with a Hanami in the riverside Nakanoshima Park. To escape the crowds, head to Kameyama-kōen, a park close to the Bamboo Forest. There’s a trail leading up a little hill to a really nice viewpoint over Katsura-gawa river and the Arashiyama Mountains.

Cherry Blossoms Arashiyama

Cherry Blossoms Arashiyama

 

City Center – I loved strolling through Kyoto’s city center at nighttime. The Sakura trees are beautifully illuminated, which looks just magical!

Cherry Blossoms Kyoto City Center

Cherry Blossoms Kyoto City Center

 

Kamo River – The perfect place to escape the crowds during cherry blossom season! I stayed at a hostel a little bit outside of the city center, but how can you mind if the way to the city center is that beautiful?

Cherry Blossoms Kamo River

Cherry Blossoms Kamo River

 

Of course, there are many more places to see the cherry blossoms in Kyoto. The Philosopher’s Path is a very popular spot as well, but it was incredibly crowded, so the pictures didn’t turn out as pretty πŸ˜‰

 

Uji

If you’re looking to escape the crowds, I’d recommend visiting Uji, Japan’s tea capital. It’s only a short ride from Kyoto and much more peaceful + you can stuff yourself with all kind of green tea flavored foods!

 

Uji river (just outside Keihan Station) – the perfect place for a Hanami!

Cherry Blossoms Uji River

 

Byodo-in Temple

Cherry Blossoms Uji Byodo-in Temple

 

Minabe Dam, Wakayama

This place is definitely not on the beaten path, but it’s worth going to if you find yourself in Wakayama Prefecture, for example after visiting Shirahama or walking the Kumano Kodo.

Cherry Blossoms Minabe Dam

Cherry Blossoms Minabe Dam

 

Tokyo

Two really nice parks in Tokyo to see the cherry blossoms are Ueno Park & Shinjuku Gyon Park (admission fee: 200 yen).

 

Know before you go – Practical information

  • Do your research before you visit – the cherry blossoms can be seen at different times in different places of Japan.
  • Lots of people imagine the cherry blossoms to be pink. Well, I’ll have to disappoint you, the majority is actually white / a very light shade of pink! Still very beautiful though πŸ™‚
  • Be prepared to be surrounded by crowds. Cherry blossom season is one of the peak times to travel Japan.
  • If you intend to travel around a lot to chase the most beautiful Hanami spots, it might be a good idea to get a JR Railpass. If you are traveling on a budget, I’d recommend to choose only a few spots and to travel long distances by bus. Busses are much slower, but overnight busses can save you extra money on accommodation besides already being cheaper than train travel. You can find more information on bus travel in Japan here.
  • Book your accommodation in advance! Cherry blossom season is such a popular time to travel that hostels, guesthouses and hotels are fully booked very quickly.
  • Hanami is the Japanese word for “cherry blossom viewing”. How to “Hanami”? Grab yourself a picnic blanket, gather your friends an enjoy food & drinks surrounded by millions of Sakura (cherry blossoms).

 

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Cherry Blossom Season Guide

 

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52 Comment

  1. Wow, lovely photos – very inspiring. I will get there one day.

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thank you Linzi! I can only recommend Japan during cherry blossom season )

  2. Ellis says: Reply

    Very beautiful pictures. I hear more and more people travelling to Japan. Seems it is good to time it in the cherry blossom season.

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thank you πŸ™‚ It really is!

  3. Wow, you really captured some beautiful photos of the Cherry Blossom season! I visited Japan during the off-season so I completely missed it but we’re keen to go during in-season on the next visit for this reason. Some great tips to help prepare for the chase and I haven’t been to Kyoto yet so that also looks like a terrific place to go to for to see it. Awesome post!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thanks πŸ™‚ Kyoto during cherry blossom season is absolutely gorgeous, definitely a place not to miss! πŸ™‚

  4. Maria says: Reply

    Would love to visit Japan in Cherry Blossom season (and in Autumn) so I find your post very useful. And the photos are beautiful, specially the one with the flowers on the water.

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thanks Maria πŸ™‚ I’d love to visit Jaan again in autumn as well, the pictures I’ve seen of the autumn leaves look magical!

  5. Claire says: Reply

    I’ve always wanted to see this, when I went to Japan it was out of season though so I’ll have to tr again! It is hard to plan the visit at the right time though, I’d have to book flights before the official forecast comes out otherwise its too late! That temple looks gorgeous with the blossom, I think that has to be my number one spot!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Bummer! It is indeed kind of difficult though to know the right time to visit. I had booked my flight to Japan in December already I think – stayed for about four week though, so I was flexible in terms of where I was going. I was super lucky in the end, but was prepared t go chasing those cherry blossoms πŸ˜€

  6. Beautiful pictures and really helpful information. Going to Japan during Cherry Blossom Season is definitely on our list. This information is very helpful. I know you said it is hard to forecast exact times to see the trees in full bloom. Sounds like we will have to take a gamble and wish for the best!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thank you, glad to hear that the post is helpful!
      Yeah unfortunately you can’t be 100% sure that the forecasts are exactly right!

  7. Soo Soo beautiful!!! I always wanted to visit Japan, but after reading your post my desire is even greater. Your pictures are simply gorgeous. Thank you for this awesome virtual trip! Stunning!
    Victoria

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thanks πŸ™‚

  8. Japan is truly lovely country, so special. Can’t wait to visit it. Your cherry blossom photos are really amazing! Love it!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thank you πŸ™‚ Japan really is a fascinating country to visit!

  9. Japan is truly a country of wonders; it’s a shame we haven’t visited there although there are direct flights from our country, the Philippines. Blame it on the lack of money.

    The vibrant flower trees are truly stunning. One of our dreams is to celebrate Valentines Day or our anniversary by walking underneath these trees. That would be sooooo romantic. πŸ™‚

    P.S. Looking at the pathway along the river reminds us of the movie The Host. Was there a monster mutated fish lurking there? Hehehe!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      I actually flew to the Philippines after I visitied Japan! Took me quite a while to save up the money though πŸ˜€ Absolutely loved the Philippines!
      Must be really romantic to celebrate Valentine’s day in Japan! Hopefully that wish of yours comes true πŸ™‚
      Haha no I didn’t spot any scary mutated fish πŸ˜€

  10. meg says: Reply

    I was supposed to visit Japan this year to see this! But I settled on Nepal instead – which will have the rhododendron’s in bloom so I can’t complain :). Looks so magical!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      The rhododendron must indeed look magical as well! Enjoy you trip to Nepal πŸ™‚

  11. kallsy says: Reply

    I can’t even begin to explain my jealousy! Unfortunately we weren’t able to make it for sakura season but are hoping to make it in 2018. Your photos are ABSOLUTELY gorgeous. I was in many of the same places (except summertime) so it’s interesting to see the difference in season!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thank you Kallsy! πŸ™‚ Bummer, but indeed a good reason to plan a next visit! I’d love to go back to Japan around fall time, the pictures Ive seen of the autumn leaves look really beautiful too!

  12. Travelgal Nicole says: Reply

    I lived in Japan and cherry blossom season was always my fave. Such stunning photos! I recently went to China and was there for cherry blossom season as well. So cool

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thanks:) Oh lucky you! I would love to experience cherry blossom season every year πŸ™‚

  13. Marcie says: Reply

    These photos are stunning! We always enjoy the cherry blossoms at the University of Washington (they were a gift from Japan) but to actually be in Japan to see them would be incredible!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thanks Marcie πŸ™‚ I’ve seen pictures of the cherry blossoms in Washington before, looks stunning as well!

  14. Tracy (lifeofkuhl) says: Reply

    Silly me πŸ™‚ I always thought the “pink” photos from Japan were edited or enhanced whenever I saw them. We get Cherry Blossoms in Alberta, CAN but no where near this amount. It is such a great sign of spring. Beautiful photos!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Haha well I guess most are, but some really are pink in reality πŸ™‚
      Thanks!

  15. I would absolutely love to visit during this season or during the autumn too. It looks incredible. Thanks for sharing your wonderful tips.

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      I’d love to visit Japan again in autumn too! The photos I’ve seen of the autumn leaves look so beautiful πŸ™‚

  16. How beautiful this is! I can’t wait to go to Japan in April this year! I’m going for a year and I can’t wait to photograph so many things! Ah, cherry blossoms, I’m coming for your!!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      You’ll love it!! Can’t wait to see the pictures on your blog! πŸ™‚

  17. LOVE cherry blossom season! Wondering if I can catch them in Tokyo or Osaka soon (I’ll be there mid March) but i’ll definitely be going to see them in Korea regardless! πŸ™‚

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      I think you might be a bit too early for cherry blossom season in Japan, but well if you’re going to Korea as well you’ll see them anyways πŸ™‚

  18. So beyond stunning! Your photography is unreal. I’m a fellow Japan fan, just got back from 2 weeks there and the cherry blossom was just starting to show some new buds.

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thank you πŸ™‚ Must have been wonderful with spring just around the corner!

  19. So beautiful! Dreaming of visiting Japan during the cherry blossom season. Love your photos! Saving this link for future reference when planning our trip to Japan. πŸ™‚

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      It ‘s such a magical time πŸ™‚ Thank you so much Joy!

  20. Super keen on going to this! It really high on my list but just havent done it yet. blah. This just gave me the itch… ticket to Japan this year? Hmmm… :-p

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Haha I know that feeling πŸ˜€ I always have so much trouble deciding where to go, there are just way too many places I’d like to visit πŸ™‚

  21. I’ve been dying to see the cherry blossoms so this was incredibly helpful! Also glad to know they aren’t pink beforehand, I probably would have thought I was staring at the wrong trees πŸ˜‰

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Happy to hear that the post is helpful πŸ™‚ Haha I think a lot of people expect them to all be pink…must be due to all those photoshopped pictures that float around on the internet πŸ˜€

  22. I hope to visit it someday. Thank you for the tips. Have pinned the post for reference πŸ™‚

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Glad to hear that the post is helpful πŸ™‚

  23. I JUST missed cherry blossom season last year, but man was the sakura blossom and strawberry latte delicious! This definitely looks like an awesome time to visit.

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Ah bummer! But what a good reason to go back to Japan, right? πŸ˜€

  24. Nancie says: Reply

    I was thinking of cherry blossoms today. I live in Seoul and we have a lovely season as well. Your photos are gorgeous. One of these years I’d like to visit Kyoto during the blossoms.

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thanks! Have a lovely cherry blossom season πŸ™‚

  25. Sarah says: Reply

    Beautiful! I can only imagine how good it smells with all of the blossoms in full bloom. On my bucket list!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      Thank you! Can only recommend visiting πŸ™‚

  26. Gorgeous! I love the sakura of Japan!

    1. dorohenrietta says: Reply

      It’s such a beautiful time of the year <3

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